By Rick Houser –
When the calendar passes Thanksgiving, the trees are left only with bare limbs. The pastures have turned brown and don’t look nearly as inviting as they did last summer. The temperature continues to drop lower and the days are for shorter and the nights seem to go forever.
As the world grows less interesting to look at, we all seem to move our thoughts to inside the house where the lights are on and the heat is turned up. This might just be the first time that I have really noticed the 180 degree turn all around me. After Thanksgiving, it seems our focus turns directly towards Christmas and what is probably the most celebrated time of the year is now just days away from us. There is so much to do as Christmas Day draws closer.
I think the first part of the Christmas season is here and now. That of course is the baking of the cookies and all the many confectionaries we associate with the holiday. These days all a person has to do is go to a supermarket or store and purchase some of the best tasting sweets a person has ever put into their mouth. But it hasn’t been so long ago that the cherished and treasured Christmas cookies were made in our homes and in our kitchens. The pleasure and the treasure of the word (homemade) goes without saying. To ask a lady of the house if her cookies were store bought was like a major slap in her face. Of course they weren’t store bought and don’t ever ask that question in my kitchen again!
In my younger years and most years since the ladies of the house not only baked some cookies they had their own bake-a-thon. I know that from watching my Mom and can only assume that the same process was carried out in almost every kitchen across the countryside.
She then would move on to an entirely different batch of cookies. Mom would start with all clean bowls and mix up what looked like an endless supply of cookie dough. She then would dig out of the cupboard a large shoe box that contained a silver looking cylinder that had a wide variety of attachments and after filling the cylinder with dough she then would attach what might look like a wreath ornament on one end and a plunger into the other end.
This was a press gun, and those decorative sugar cookies seemed to come out of it forever. I know it would take her more than a half of a day to make what seemed to be a little boy was an endless supply. (Almost enough, but not quite enough to hold over this little boy.) Besides the cookies I have already described, there were just as many that I hadn’t tried yet, and with a gallon of milk or a pot of hot coffee there was really no reason to leave the kitchen. Definitely the meal of champions!
This scene was carried out in almost every home and to the pleasure of every family. Just think about this. Take all these great cooks and all those out of this world sweets they made with their own hands and on their own stoves. Would you dare to bring a store bought cookie in there? Of course not. So for the next few weeks and until after Christmas had passed, I began my morning with cookies and milk.
It was also a tradition to package and give some of your hard labors to your neighbors and friends and they paid back the gift with a box of delicacies of their own. That was a unique way of giving for the season. I think the feeling was that you must have cared enough to have thought of them to share your cookies. In those days giving wasn’t all about just how much was spent on a gift you received but that you took the time to think of someone else. The truth is that is still the best way to look at it.
To be honest there are still many folks who can bake a truly awesome Christmas cookie. You know? The kind that melts in your mouth and politeness stops you from saying as much but you are thinking, “Man I really would like another one or two.”
We all enter the holiday still holding on to many traditions that we are not going to let go of. The sweets are only the first part of the event. They go with the family and friends we have woven into our celebration. I talk about how sweet all the confections are, but in all honesty there probably isn’t anything sweeter than having families together to celebrate the birth of our Savior and for that we are all thankful.
As we wait until Christmas Eve and Christmas Day to arrive, I guess about the only thing we can do to pass the time is to eat some cookies and maybe have a glass of cold milk. This really is the sweetest time of the year.
Rick Houser grew up on a farm near Moscow in Clermont County and loves to share stories about his youth and other topics. If you wish He might be contacted to speak to your group. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.